[TamilNet, Wednesday, 17 January 2001, 12:28 GMT]
than ten thousand people in Jaffna comprising university
students, high-school students, residents and
representatives and members of civil organisations
demonstrated Wednesday, urging the Sri Lankan government to
reciprocate the Liberation Tigers unilateral ceasefire and
negotiate with the movement. Thousands more people were
turned away by Sri Lankan security forces at check points
set up along the major roads leading to the university,
residents said. Reporters were not permitted into the
The security forces had refused to allow Wednesday�s peace
demonstration and warned students, lecturers and residents
of the dire consequences of participating in it. Last
Saturday nine students were arrested by the Sri Lanka Army
(SLA) in connection with organising the protest.
On Wednesday, roads leading to the university were blocked
off with barbed wire placed across some of the streets. SLA
troops also set up roadblocks at the major entrances to the
university and refused entry to the grounds for anyone who
was not staff or a student there.
However residents said people had scaled over the walls and
found ways around the blocked streets to enter the grounds,
which were decorated in red and yellow bunting, and join the
The bicycles of hundreds of participating students were
confiscated, loaded onto a truck and taken away by the SLA.
The identity cards of several students were also confiscated
and taken to the nearby Army camp. The students were told to
report to the SLA to get their cards back.
Some students who were attempting to circumvent a roadblock
were chased by police, and in attempting to jump over a
wall, were injured, organisers said.
The event, titled �Pongu Tamil�, began at 10.30am with the
ceremonial lighting of the �freedom flame� � as the
protestors termed it - by Jaffna University Vice Chancellor
Professor K Balasundarampillai and other dignitaries.
Professor Balasundarampillai then spoke in support of the
event. He stated that he was proud to see the university
student body raising their voices in support of freedom and
peace. He expressed the hope that the �Pongu Tamil�
gathering would provide the impetus for an upraising of
Tamil voices in support of peace and the recognition of the
importance of the Norwegian mediated peace efforts.
K Thevaraj, the President of the Jaffna University Teachers
Association also spoke at the event, followed by the
President of the Jaffna University Students Association,
Arnold (Ed: one name). He told the gathering that of all the
Sri Lankan governments, that of President Chandrika
Kumaratunge was the worst. He accused the government of
actively undermining ongoing peace efforts by waging war.
The speeches were followed by a short play. Bones,
surrounded by iron fencing, were placed in the middle of a
large float in the middle of the grounds. The Jaffna people
were represented as living in telephone and electricity
stations, and of then breaking out of them. Organisers said
they wished to highlight the government�s attempts to
pretend life in Jaffna was normal because it had restored
some telephone lines and electricity to some areas.
At noon, bells were rung across the peninsula at Hindu
temples and Christian churches, including the Jaffna
university grounds, in support of the demontration.
Meanwhile, Jaffna Hindu College students who wished to
attend the event were prevented from doing so by their
headmaster, S. Sri Kumaran, who locked the doors to the
school. Sources suggest that he was told to prevent the
students from going to the event by the leader of a Tamil
political party, suspected to be the paramilitary Eelam
People�s Democratic Party (EPDP), which is part of Sri
Lanka�s ruling coalition.
Meanwhile, T Maheswaran, the representative for Jaffna of
the main opposition United National Party (UNP), attended
A declaration signed by the Jaffna University Students
Association, Jaffna University Teachers Association and the
organisations representing the various support staff of the
university, was released at the demonstration, stating the
�At this juncture, we raise our suppressed voices together.
�The government must immediately stop this war. It must
immediately begin meaningful and just peace talks with the
�Through this process, we want to see a just solution that
recognises the Tamil people�s aspirations of the recognition
of the Tamil nation, recognition of our homelands and
recognition of our right to self-determination.
�We call on the international community to understand the
real hopes and aspirations of our people who have long been
�Your conscience must lead the way to finding a just and
peaceful solution for our lives.�
In an interview with a London based Tamil radio station, one
of the organisers of the event said that while his fellow
protestors did not believe the Sri Lankan government would
offer the Tamil people a just solution, they were
nevertheless planning to continue with these campaigns in
the hope that the international community would prevail upon
the government to seek a peaceful solution.